Maja Pivec: "Games can be applied as a tool to foster various aspects of the life-long learning process"
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Maja Pivec, the project coordinator of Special Interest Group for Game Based Learning in Universities (SIG-GLUE), thanks readers for sending their questions to the User Generated Interview regarding game-based learning. The topic of games and learning will be also presented at Online Educa where Maja Pivec will lead a round table discussion.
Dear Maja Pivec, I am concerned about the matter of the structural design of educational games and very pleased to have the chance to ask an expert: how should the game be designed to make sure that the learner does not avoid some important educational contents by cheating?
How to avoid cheating? The game should, in the first place, be fun to play – and the interaction in the game should be more rewarding than the completion of the game itself.
Where is the guarantee that students won’t cheat? There is no guarantee. Also, in commercial games, cheat codes are available and popular. Cheat codes are included in the game to allow the developers to test and debug their code without having to play for hours to test enhancement. For example, a driving game may have a cheat code to repair damage, or a shooter may have a cheat code for unlimited ammunition. This allows the developer to test without having to be an expert at the game. These codes always find themselves posted on the Internet and are usually found by players wanting to experience the game in an easier mode.
When designing your own game, it is always a challenge to ensure that the game is linear enough to cover all aspects for learning, yet not so linear that it would restrict players’ further gameplay if they got stuck.
I can see that a video game is of great advantage to help integrate schools in the new digital era. But, for students, can you tell us in which way video games improve children's potential?
finateca (United Kingdom)
Many publications include research that details potential aspects of player computer games. For example, hand-eye coordination, spatial orientation, mental rotation, spatial visualisation (Tetris achieves these), spatial integration and mental mapping (3d maze games), strategies for dividing attention and multitasking (fps games), brain capacity improvement, problem solving, etc.
The games to train site is one of many sites where learning or training games for different topics are listed.
Dear Maja Pivec, I believe that games contribute to the creativity of learners. Do you think that creativity is important for the learning process? Could you give us some examples of these game-based learning projects? Thanks in advance.
Marta Casares (Spain)
Creativity is a basis for learning and forms many of the constructivist learning theories. Gardner, a professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education, suggested that individuals are “creative” in specific domains. He suggested that providing students with ways to be creative allows them to find and solve problems and communicate ideas in various forms. Game-based learning is ideal for this. Some examples are described in Piloting New Ways of Learning and Education Arcade zooms in on games in the classroom.
There is a recent EU-funded project on the application of mobile phones and games for learning called mGBL – mobile Game-Based Learning.
Malcolm Gladwell, a writer at the New Yorker, said about the programme Sesame Street: “If you can hold the attention of children, you can educate them.” Do you agree? Do you believe that this could also be applied to adults?
Pedro González (Spain)
I also believe that attention and focus on the topic are necessary for successful learning. However, there are other factors that influence and contribute to the learning process, e.g. arousing interest in the topic, interaction with the topic, etc., where games can be applied as a tool to foster various aspects of the life-long learning process. There are also many publications on immersive environments. Research shows that 3d games can create such an environment and that, when immersed, the player’s cognitive learning abilities are increased.
Games, play and playful interaction can successfully be introduced in all areas of (adult) learning, i.e. formal, non-formal and informal learning.
Dear Maja, thanks for answering our questions. Do you think that game-based learning helps the learning process to take place out of the classrooms as well, for example, at home? And do you believe that collaborative learning is possible in this type of learning? For instance, three children playing together with a videogame.
Octavio Giacomo (Italy)
Many multiplayer games achieve exactly this. Dungeon Siege One is a good example. Each player controls a different character and, in multiplayer mode, they must work together to complete tasks and advance levels. This promotes teamwork and fosters collaboration between children. Multiplayer online games also foster collaboration with many players participating solely for the social interaction.
Are there any examples of this kind of learning in Europe or in other countries in the world?
There are many examples of the application of games for learning in different areas.
One can decide to use “educational games” for learning e.g. Chemicus (by Heureka-Klett publisher; or TIVOLA for the US market), a puzzle-adventure game for the self-directed learning of chemistry. One can find an entire series of titles similar to Chemicus, e.g. Physicus, Hystorion, Informaticus, etc., by the same publishers.
One can also apply off-the-shelf games that cover various aspects of the learning issue, e.g.: Age of Empires for the introduction of ancient history, Jurassic Park covers the topic of dinosaurs, SimEarth or SimCity can be applied for ecology and resource management, The Sims is for social and behavioural sciences, etc., as outlined in the Edge Magazine Oct. 2004, issue 141.
There are also online games available. Several online games and case studies can be seen at the UniGame site.
I am the founder of the Kindersite project. Please could you evaluate the Kindersite within the format of game-based learning?
joelhjosephson (United Kingdom)
The SIG-GLUE quality stamp service is aimed at assessing the quality of learning games. The service started in May 2006. Individuals and companies can submit their learning games for an evaluation process. The term “learning games” is used for games that have an explicit learning purpose and can be used, adapted and adopted for supporting, improving and fostering learning processes within formal, non-formal and informal learning scenarios.
Access the web site to see more details about criteria, submission, the evaluation process and benefits of the quality stamp.
Dear Maja, I'm very interested in games for learning, in order to support constructivist learning. Do you know an interesting software tool for making games? Thank you very much.
“Gamemaker” is a good example. It has a free version and a registered version with many tutorials included.
For the more experienced, there is “torque” from garagegames. This is a commercial engine with 2d and 3d versions, as well as an educational pricing structure.
Both products are very good and produce good quality output; however, you still need to foster the idea and develop the gameplay design before you start.
I read an article that stated that game-based learning is negative because children get used to working in unreal situations (fun, games) that will not be the case when children grow up and work in a company. What do you think?
Lucie Smith (Ireland)
Despite having fun and playful interaction in games (though I personally don’t see why fun and play should exclude learning) games can cover different learning objectives and contribute to various learning outcomes that can also be applied in the professional world.
For example, when playing multiplayer games, the social aspects of these can contribute to the acquisition of numerous skills relevant to professional life, e.g. team work, communication skills, digital literacy, etc. Also, today, many digital games do provide a real-life situation. Simcity is a classic and often used to teach economics. Microsoft’s Flight Simulator is also true to life. Achieving a balance between fun, gameplay and learning is a goal that many developers have yet to achieve.
Online Educa Berlin 2006 organises a round table discussion about the purpose of games in learning, quality issues and theoretical foundations of games design and development on Friday, December 1. To read more please click here.
Call for Papers: SIG-GLUE Special Issue on Game-Based Learning - British Journal of Educational Technology. The SIG-GLUE editorial board would like to invite researchers, practitioners and game-developers interested in the use, or potential use, of games in adult educational settings to contribute to this special issue with articles reporting original research and current developments in the area of game-based learning. To read more please see the PDF on the right-hand side resource area.